Prashad, Vijay. Everybody was Kung Fu Fighting: Afro-Asian Connections
and the Myth of Cultural Purity
. Boston: Beacon Press, 2001.
annotation by Kirsten Rokke (Theories of Media, Winter 2004)

This highly opinionated history highlights the interactions of the Others, specifically Asian and Black Others. Prashad’s political or theoretical goals in drawing out some neglected histories is to promote his idea of polyculturalism. He sets polyculturalism in opposition to what he considers to be the two dominant American attitudes toward race: color blindness and multiculturalism. He defines the color blind attitude to be the logic motivating opposition to affirmative action, that people should be evaluated based on merit irrespective of ethnicity. He argues that this is shortsighted because it doesn’t take into account the more systematic forces in place which benefit certain groups more than others. He specifically draws attention to the way that Asian Americans are positioned as the model minority and used to prove the laziness of others. Multiculturalism is problematic for him as well because it emphasizes the differences between cultures in a way that reifies them as separate and static. Institutions that support multiculturalism try to "manage the problem of diversity rather than how to undermine the structures that engender the illusion of absolute difference and then the zoological maintenance of culture out of fear of survival (for primordialists and indegenistas) or out of fear of contamination (for racist cultural chauvinists)" (63). His project is to present a history of polyculturalism which reveals the blending of cultural practices and values across ethnic boundaries; this strategy works to "(uncouple) the notions of origins and authenticity from that of culture" (65).

Prashad notes the often forgotten influence that Asian ideas and individuals had on black leaders like Marcus Garvey and Malcolm X. Even these leaders whose messages are often remembered as being very Afrocentric took inspiration from a wide variety of sources and understood the fate of black people to be tied to non-white people around the world. He also discusses the migration and translation of traditions like the Sh’ai ceremony of Muharram which celebrates the martyrdom of Muhammad Hussain, which was brought to the Caribbean and became called Hosay. It came to the Caribbean with the thousands of East Indians who were brought to be laborers after chattel slavery was abolished. Hosay had an influence on the practices of Carnival. These influences are meant to be just the tip of the iceberg; Prashad would argue that there were still earlier origins for these cultures such that it does not make sense to label them as origins at all.

He strategically constructs a history which de-centers the role of the white American even as that common foe looms large as a backdrop. By focusing on the Others he does not emphasize the influence that these people have on the "dominant" culture. This was surely a deliberate attempt to refuse to give attention to the culture that already has all the attention. Pitting either Asian or black culture against the mainstream would not be as effective at getting across the idea of a mutual influence. When there is a more obvious power dynamic, loaded terms like "appropriation" seem inevitable, and Prashad seems to be after a more nuanced point than that. He wants to make the relationships between cultures natural and not inherently problematic.